Washington, D.C. – Safe Kids USA with support from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is coordinating a national public education effort to raise awareness with parents and caregivers about water safety for children and help prevent drowning and entrapment in pools and spas. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4.
“A child in or near water can get into trouble in a matter of seconds,” said Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA. “Safe Kids promotes ‘Lock, Look, and Learn,’ to help remind parents and caregivers that layers of protection help keep children safe, such as using barriers, fences, and anti-entrapment devices for home pools and spas, actively supervising your children, learning how to swim and enrolling your children in swimming, and knowing basic water rescue skills, such as CPR.”
Although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time – talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child. In fact, a parent or caregiver claimed to be supervising the child in nearly 9 out of 10 drowning-related deaths.
While there is no substitute for active supervision, learning how to swim is an important skill for both parents and children to learn. In fact, new studies indicate that teaching children to swim between the ages of 6 and 12 months old is a great way to build their confidence in the water while at the same time teaching them water safety skills.
Seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard, who is hoping to compete in the 100- and 200-meter breast stroke events in the 2012 Olympics, is a firm believer in teaching children to swim at a young age. “I hear parents say all the time that their 3- or 4-year-old toddlers haven’t learned to swim because they are too young. By this age, your child can be a very good swimmer. In addition, your child will learn about water safety skills and what they should do if they fall in the pool. These lessons are literally saving lives.”
As part of Safe Kids USA’s work to promote the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, Safe Kids USA was awarded a grant from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in September 2010. The law, which has fundamentally changed the way pools and spas are used and maintained in the U.S., was named in honor of Virginia Graeme Baker, the 7-year old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker, who drowned in 2002 when the powerful suction of a drain entrapped her underwater.
To help keep your kids safe in or around the water, Safe Kids recommends these Lock, Look, and Learn reminders for parents.
- If you have a pool or spa, or if your child visits a home that has a pool or spa, it should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least 4-feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates. Studies estimate that this type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools.
- Make sure all pools and spas have compliant anti-entrapment drain covers and back up devices to ensure safer places for children to swim.
- When not in use, all pools, including portable inflatable pools and spas, should be covered and secured. Ladders to above ground pools and spas should be locked or removed.
- Always actively supervise children in and around water. Designate someone to be the “Water Watcher” – a responsible adult who is in charge of watching children while they are in or near water. The Water Watcher should not be distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others. Caregivers can work as a team, taking turns with another adult to stay alert to watch the children.
- Watch children even if they know how to swim – knowing how to swim does not prevent drowning.
- If a child is missing, check the water first.
- Know how to swim and enroll your kids in swimming lessons.
- Learn CPR and know how to use rescue equipment – these are important skills to know if there is an emergency.
- Learn how to choose the right life jacket depending on the water activity, your child’s size, and weight. Don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys such as “water wings” and noodles; these toys should never be used in place of U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. Children who can’t swim well or can’t swim at all should be within your arm’s reach.
- Teach children water safety rules such as never swim alone, always wear a life jacket while boating, and never swim or play near pool or spa drains.
About Safe Kids USA
Safe Kids USA is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, which is a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. More than 600 coalitions and chapters across the U.S. and nineteen member countries across the globe bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. Founded in 1987 as the National SAFE KIDS Campaign by Children’s National Medical Center with support from Johnson & Johnson, Safe Kids Worldwide is a non-profit organization located in Washington, D.C.